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Keeping your files well organised allows you to locate your research data easily. It also prevents confusion when working with different versions of files, and makes it easier to see which data are (still) missing or which file was stored unnecessarily in more copies.

Video Organising and describing research data

Organising and describing research data
Organising and describing research data


  1. Organise your data in logical categories/folders
  2. Make files easy to sort
  3. Make a clear distinction between versions
  4. Keep file names clear and concise


If you organise your files into categories, you can give each category its own folder. Possible categories are: 

  • thematically: experiment type, analysis method used etc.
  • chronologically: year, month, day or period to which the data refer or in which they were collected
  • geographically: country, region or place where the data are collected or to which they refer
  • type of file: e.g. report, article
  • nature of the files: e.g. master files, working files
  • versions: concepts, definitive version.


If you are consistent in the way you name your files, your files are easily sorted. Possible options: 

  • chronologically: begin the file name with the date (YYYY-MM-DD), e.g. 20140415Agenda.docx, 20140427Agenda.docx
  • consecutively: begin or end the file name with a number, e.g. 001image.jpg, 035image.jpg, progressreport01.docx, progressreport05.docx
  • by respondent or test person: begin each file name with the code you gave to a person, e.g. 016interview.docx, 016languagetest.docx

Version management

Different versions of files may be distinguished by means of a version number in the file name, preceded by a small v. Normally, a dot is used in version numbers (v1.0). In order to prevent confusion with the file extension, it is recommended to use an underscore (v1_0, v1_5, v2_0). 

If you save the same content in different file formats, give the files the same name and the same version number, regardless of the file format: e.g., BrownM_transcript_v1_0.pdf.

File names

To be able to see the contents of each folder at a glance, it is advisable to limit the file names to ca 25 characters. In order to keep file names concise, it may be necessary to use abbreviations in file names. Keep a list of these abbreviations in a separate text file which you store with your research data. 

Avoid the use of spaces, dots and special characters in file names. The characters may cause difficulties when you share a file via the web. Use an underscore instead of a space.

Renaming files

By means of software you can simply rename a large number of files in a single go.